CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH – Creative Expression BENEFITS your BRAIN

During self-isolation due to coronavirus, many are turning to the arts. Whether looking for a creative outlet or opportunity for expression, it’s  possible that we are driven by an innate desire to use our brains in ways that make us feel good.

Having facilitated millions (maybe not millions, but a LOT) of Therapeutic Creative Expression workshops I know that creative expression — in all its many forms – is stress reducing and a tool for healing.  There is compelling  cutting-edge research, that the arts have positive effects on mental health which supports my experience and observations.

Found objects & magazine pictures

Neuroesthetics

This is a new field of study called neuroesthetics, which uses brain imaging and biofeedback to learn about the brain on art. Scientists are learning about how art lifts our moods and captures our minds.

Evidence from biological, cognitive and neurological studies show visual art boosts wellness and the ability to adapt to stress.

“While practicing the arts is not the panacea for all mental health challenges, there’s enough evidence to support prioritizing arts in our own lives at home as well as in our education systems.”
“Research shows that the arts can be used to create a unique cognitive shift into a holistic state of mind called flow, a state of optimal engagement first identified in artists, that is mentally pleasurable and neurochemically rewarding.”

1. Art promotes well-being through Mindfullness

HeART of Spirituality Workshop Judy Facilitated

MINDFULNESS AND FLOW — The arts have been found to be effective tools for mindfulness (a trending practice in schools that is effective for managing mental health).

“Specifically, engaging with visual art has been found to activate different parts of the brain other than those taxed by logical, linear thinking; and another study found that visual art activated distinct and specialized visual areas of the brain.”

Collage using Magazine Pictures

Neuroesthetic findings suggest this is not an experience exclusive to artists: it is simply untapped by those who do not practice in the arts.

There is a wealth of studies on the relationship between the arts, flow, and mental health, and flow-like states have been connected to mindfulnessattentioncreativity, and even improve cognition.

Magazine picture collage

THREE TIPS FOR ARTS-BASED MINDFULNESS

1. Make mistakes – Experiment

The first rule of all my Creative Expression workshops is:

THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG

Try something new and be willing to make mistakes to learn. Most professional artists practice for years and admit to making lots of pictures they don’t like before one they are satisfied with.  Those we now consider “masters” destroy pieces of their art – we only see what they felt was successful.

Our “feel-good” brain neurochemistry is activated when we try to learn new things.

2. Reuse and repeat – Practice & Process over Product

Play and experiment with reusable materials:

  • Dry-erase markers on windows that can be easily wiped away.
  • Sculpting material, like play dough that can be squished and reshaped.
  • Etch-a-Sketch, Buddha Boards
  • Crayons and coloring books
  • Scribble on cardboard

When your goal is to experiment you emphasize practice and process over product and take the pressure off to make something that looks good. If you want to keep a copy, snap a photo of the work, then let it go.

3. Silence Part of Your Brain

Don’t talk when you are making art, and if you are listening to music, choose something without lyrics. The parts of the brain activated during visual art are different than those activated for speech generation and language processing. Give those overworked parts of the mind a break, and indulge in the calm relaxation that comes from doing so.

The neurochemicals that are released feel good, and that is your brain’s way of thanking you for the experience.

Take a look at some early posts on Creative Expression:

Tutorial: Processing Your Creative Journaling

Processing Theraputic Creative Expression

Sneek a Peek Into My Journal

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